Thursday, November 1, 2012

St. Agnes Convent, Prague

In honor of the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1, the day for which Halloween (All Hallow's Even) is named), here's a convent in Prague built by a saint!

In the Jewish Quarter of Prague is a convent founded by St. Agnes, sister of King Wenceslas I of Bohemia. It was founded in 1234 and was the first Order of Poor Clares (the female order of the Franciscans) in Bohemia. It was finally completed in the 14th century only to be sacked by the Hussites in the 15th century. The convent was closed in 1782. It was restored in the 1990s. Several tombs of kings and queens were found during the restoration. The main building now houses an extensive exhibit of Czech art from the medieval period (approximately 1200-1550).

The entrance to the convent is quite modest. If it wasn't for the large sign overhead, I would never have guessed I was in the right place.

Entrance to St. Agnes Convent

Inside one can see a model of the convent as it was before all the other buildings rose up about it.

St. Agnes Convent back in the day

I wandered around the ground floor and saw a good deal of the now empty convent buildings. Some of the rooms had various sculptures or recreations of art works from the medieval period.

Sarcophagus dating from 1881 (not so old)

A bit of wall decoration

Bust of Anna Svidnicka (3rd wife of Charles IV) from the 1300s

Bust of Charles IV from the 1300s

Ever popular Madonna and Child

Just outside the Church of the Holy Savior is the tomb of Cunegund, the queen of Wensceslas I, and the tomb of St. Agnes, sister of the king.

Queen Cunegund, died 1248

St. Agnes, died 1282

Church of the Holy Savior

Next to this church is the Church of St. Francis, where King Wenceslas is buried.

St. Francis's is now used for concerts

Also visible is the Oratory where St. Agnes would enter the church for Mass.

St. Agnes Oratory

The exhibit upstairs is quite amazing, with many different paintings and sculptures from the medieval period. Due to the age of the works, photography is not allowed so I am unable to share any here on the blog. They didn't have a book and a quick web search has turned up nothing, so you'll have to go to Prague and see for yourself.

Who was St. Agnes?

From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia site:
Born at Prague in the year 1200; died probably in 1281. She was the daughter of Ottocar, King of Bohemia and Constance of Hungary, a relative of St. Elizabeth. At an early age she was sent to the monastery of Treinitz, where at the hands of the Cistercian religious she received the education that became her rank. She was betrothed to Frederick II, Emperor of Germany; but when the time arrived for the solemnization of the marriage, it was impossible to persuade her to abandon the resolution she had made of consecrating herself to the service of God in the sanctuary of the cloister. The Emperor Frederick was incensed at the unsuccessful issue of his matrimonial venture, but, on learning that St. Agnes had left him to become the spouse of Christ, he is said to have remarked: "If she had left me for a mortal man, I would have taken vengeance with the sword, but I cannot take offence because in preference to me she has chosen the King of Heaven." The servant of God entered the Order of St. Clare in the monastery of St. Saviour at Prague, which she herself had erected. She was elected abbess of the monastery, and became in this office a model of Christian virtue and religious observance for all. God favoured her with the gift of miracles, and she predicted the victory of her brother Wenceslaus over the Duke of Austria. The exact year of her death is not certain; 1281 is the most probable date. [Note: She was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II on November 12, 1989. Her feast is kept on the second of March.]

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